African nations reach compromise on ivory sales under UN-backed ban

African nations reach compromise on ivory sales under UN-backed ban

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Eighteen years after a United Nations-backed treaty banned the ivory trade, African ministers have for the first time achieved a regional consensus on how to address the highly charged issue.

The long-running global debate over the African elephant has focused on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation and to local communities living side by side with elephants and concerns that such sales may encourage poaching.

The UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – which aims is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival – banned the global commercial ivory trade in 1989.

Under the compromise agreement reached today, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be permitted to make a single sale of all their registered and verified government stocks to countries with approved controls on ivory sales.

“This African solution to an African problem marks a great step forward for wildlife conservation,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. “It is good news for the elephant, good news for the people who live alongside them and good news for regional cooperation in Africa.”

The agreement also stipulates that once this sale has been completed no new proposals for further sales from these four countries are to be considered by CITES during a “resting period” of nine years.